JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Defense coming along:
The Jaguars practiced in front of almost 2,000 fans at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields, Thursday, as the team wrapped up is second week of organized team activities, and if the fans took anything away from practice, its that the defense is improving.
Thursday was a big day for the defense. It wasn’t flashy. They didn’t force turnovers. But the defense just looked like a unit that is beginning to gel. They didn’t allow a touchdown during team drills, making the offense look sloppy at times, some of which could be attributed to the fact that the Jaguars only had four active receivers for Thursday’s practice due to injuries across the position.
Still, it was obvious that the defense is beginning to gain confidence, and is starting to take ownership in itself, something that head coach Gus Bradley has preached throughout the entire offseason.
“That relentless passion, we really want that part where they own that and they take that over,” Bradley said after practice. “And I think just in conversations and seeing how they’re playing on the field, I think you sense it going in that direction so that’s a great accomplishment.”
Improvement was expected going into the 2014 season for the Jaguars who finished tied for 27th in overall defense and tied for dead last in sacks with only 31. General manager David Caldwell injected the defensive line with a bunch new talent, including Seattle transfers Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, former first round pick from the Steelers Ziggy Hood, and Dakoda Watson who they brought in from Tampa Bay to play the new Otto position the team has introduced this offseason.
The new additions across the defensive line, along with key returners including Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Jason Babin and Andre Branch, give the Jaguars confidence that the defense will be much improved from a year ago.
“It’s real good,” Marks said. “As far as the different people that they brought in, their personalities gel well with our locker room. So we got that. That’s the first step and we built our foundation. I think we’ll do real good with it.”
Other key returners for the defense from a year ago include linebackers Paul Posluszny and Geno Hayes, corner back Dwayne Gratz, and safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Winston Guy who is quietly having a great offseason and should head into training camp as the starting free safety.
Two minute drill:
Receivers bit by injury bug: The Jaguars only had four receivers active for Thursday’s practice with seven guys sitting out due to injury. Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Tandon Doss and Lamar Thomas all watched from the sidelines. This opened up a big opportunity for guys like Kerry Taylor, Damian Copeland, Allen Hurns and Chad Bumphis to get reps they might not get if the rest of the guys were healthy. After practice coach Bradley praised the four receivers who were practicing for their efforts, saying “with the lack of depth at receiver I thought those receivers picked it up. A lot of those guys took multiple reps and they did a great job competing throughout.”
Bortles continues to mature: Bradley told members of the media after practice that he was pleased with the progression that first-round pick Blake Bortles made this week. He said his poise and comfort level on the field was excellent and that he should consider Thursday’s practice as “a big step for him.”
Another good turnout by the fans: Work or school did not stop almost 2,000 fans from lining the gates outside EverBank Field and filling the bleachers inside the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields for Thursday’s practice which was open to the public. This is third practice this offseason that the Jaguars have opened to the public. Back in May the team saw a combined 8,000 plus fans over two days at rookie mini-camp practices that were open to the public. There will be three additional practices this offseason that will be open to the public, two minicamp practices on June 16th and 17th , and a practice the team will hold at Bartram Trail High School on July 28th.